A friend of mine wrote the following letter to Mishpachah, with some penetrating insights and stark facts from his own community; I am not confident of its chances of being printed, so I am presenting it here:
5809 16th Avenue
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Re: “They didn’t feel the Divine caress” by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
Your magazine, on the whole, is to be praised for dealing with interesting and sometimes challenging issues which, hitherto, have been pushed under the carpet or ignored by our Community. This is a valuable service which in many areas is reaping rich rewards.
However, you have seriously let yourselves and your readers down by publishing the “Point of View” column regarding the Shalit family’s response to the release of Gilad Shalit.
Firstly, let’s debunk the myth of Achdus which Rabbi Grylak postulates.
The Charedi community didn’t give a hoot about Gilad Shalit. This was sadly reflected in my own community of Manchester, UK, a community which includes approximately 10,000 Charedi Jews. Over the five and a half long years of Gilad Shalit’s captivity there have been several rallies and meetings to show the outside world, the Government of Israel, and indeed the Shalit family that the Jews of Manchester shared the pain, cared about Gilad and yearned for his release. Where were the Charedi population of Manchester? Absent. Not a minyan of Charedim attended these rallies and meetings.
Contrast that with the turnout for a similar meeting to raise money and support for “Our boys in Japan.” There were over a thousand Charedi men jammed into the hall, with hundreds more outside, clamoring to hear stirring words about the importance of Pidyon Shevuyim.
In various Orthodox publications (including your own) there have been numerous adverts with the leading Rabbonim urging us to daven for the Yeshiva Bochurim in Japan - and quite rightly so - we should all daven for them, they are our brothers. But where were the adverts from the same Rabbonim urging us to daven for Gilad ben Aviva - who is also our brother? They were absent.
When the gatherings took place to say Tehillim for the boys, would it not have been appropriate to add Gilad’s name? No, it wasn’t added, because he is not “one of us”.
So please, Rabbi Grylak, don’t patronize your readers with platitudes about the “Achdus of Am Yisrael, described by the Torah commentators with the analogy, ‘when one part is hurt, the whole body feels it’.” That, I’m afraid applies only when the “part” that is hurt is from one particular section of the body.
And the reason that this lamentable lack of display of care about Gilad Shalit existed in the Charedi Community is due to the very same elitism which Rabbi Grylak eschews in his column. He highlights what he calls the family’s “lack of Emunah. They lack belief in the Creator; they lack belief that when a Jew suffers the Shechina suffers as well”. True, he condescendingly states, “It’s not their fault”. Nevertheless, this attitude of “Nebach, the poor Chilonim, they don’t know any better” merely adds to the feelings and display of elitism and disdain for anyone not in their “club”.
How dare Rabbi Grylak criticize Gilad Shalit’s reaction on his release! Gilad Shalit, in common with thousands of other young men, put his life on the line to protect the Holy Land so that the rest of us can go about our daily lives in relative security. That was his Avodas Hashem, every bit as important as ours and Rabbi Grylak’s.
Hashem is not one dimensional, He appreciates every type of mesiras nefesh for Am Yisroel - not just the Charedi version. Sgt. Shalit was moser nefesh, spending 5 1/2 years in, no doubt, horrible conditions for his Avodah. How does Rabbi Grylak know what is in the heart of that young man or his family? How does he know what thanks to the Divine Being is in his mind and heart? In addition, the fact that Noam Shalit went to ask for Brochos from the Gedolim, in itself demonstrates that deep inside him stirs a recognition of the Borei Olam.
The Mishna in Avos (Perek 2 Mishna 5) tells us clearly, “do not judge your fellow until you are in his place”. Chas Veshalom that Rabbi Grylak or any other person should be in Gilad’s place!
No, we are not in a position to criticize his or his family’s reaction - only to salute his and their courage and to thank the Ribbono Shel Olam and his shlichim for his safe return.
Dr. Jonathan Lieberman